Review: Black Viper: Sophia’s Fate (PC)

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Black Viper: Sophia’s Fate
Publisher: Microids
Developer: Ticonblu
Genre: Hidden Object
Release Date: 09/05/2014

Black Viper is all about living a double life. You play as Sophia, a detective in an Italian town. When the wife of a prominent businessman is found dead in their home, Sophia is put on the case. However, she knows that her role as a cop isn’t enough to get the job done. There are rules and regulations that keep them from digging as far as they’d like to go. That’s why, at night, she dons the guise of the Black Viper.

The story here starts off simply enough, but soon gets itself caught in a tangled web of plot twists and secret societies. Sophia is a victim of amnesia you see, and this case just so happens to deal with her forgotten past. It also deals with an evil organization bent on world domination. That’s just how these things roll I guess. It’s nonsensical.

blackviper1Even worse, the script is poorly translated. While you can usually figure out what people are trying to say, it’s often worded poorly or done in a backwards fashion. There are also plenty of spelling errors, unless that billionaire playboy really was talking about the death of his “wide”. The spelling and translation problems aren’t even in just the story. During hidden object scenes, you’ll be asked to find a “pocket”. It turns out that what you’re supposed to fine is actually a wallet. “Ticker” and “time” stand in for clock as well. You get the idea. It makes the game confusing to play.

While many of the various locations in the game look interesting, there’s a lack of a unifying theme to pull the game together. One series of movements has you going from a lavish dining room to a secret arms room, to a room filled with ancient torture devices to a room with a freaking hologram in the middle. It’s an odd collection to be sure. I don’t see why a high tech arms manufacture has an old fashioned dungeon complete with rusty metal bars and dirt floors either. Nothing gels here.

As for the rest of the visual package, the game is decent for the lower end of the genre. Character models look human enough, but don’t animate at all. The handful of scenes where people or things do move are awkward and noticeably worse than the rest of the game. Still, there are some neat designs here, from Bettie Page posters on the wall to a floating hologram inspired by cyber-punk. If the ideas meshed together in a coherent way, the game would look pretty good for a low budget title.

blackviper2The game does a little better in the audio department. I suspect this is largely because there isn’t any voice acting to be found. Instead, it’s just music and sound effects. The music is pretty decent, although it doesn’t always fit the action. The tenser moments in the game probably deserve a harder style of music, but it’s the same mystery tunes throughout the game. The effects are standard. The right sound is played at the right time, and nothing is horrible, which is all you can ask for.

While there certainly some adventure aspects, Black Viper focuses more on hidden object sequences and mini-games. It’s actually unusually uncommon for you to pick up an item and use it elsewhere. I only had more than a few items in my inventory a couple of times. Both of those times were parts of the game where I needed to collect a bunch of similar items, so they hardly count. You’ll still unlock things with keys, cut things with a knife, etc. You just won’t do it as often.

For hidden object scenes, the game uses two different styles. The most basic style is where you’re given a list of items and a screen to find them. As I mentioned before, these lists are riddled with words that are poorly translated or don’t mean what you’d thing they’d mean. At one point, I was asked to find a “fan”. It turns out I was supposed to click on an object on the ceiling that perhaps could pass for a ventilation fan. It looked more like a speaker though. Another time I was asked to find a bag. I was supposed to ignore the handbag on the table and click on the golf bag in the back. If you’re not given a list of items, you’ll instead be given outlines. You’re supposed to hunt down objects that fill in the shape. These are touch and go, but you only have to find a few things.

blackviper3The game uses a zoom function to help you find objects. That’s because the backgrounds are completely cluttered with objects. Most of them are tiny too. In fact, you might miss an object because it is too small even if you are zoomed in. The zoom feature also often blurs the area you’re looking at. It’s less than ideal. You can’t zoom outside of hidden object sequences though. This is obnoxious considering the tiny objects you’re supposed to click on during adventure sections.

Mini-games are plentiful in this game. The basics, such as jigsaw puzzles, slide puzzles, and rotating puzzles are all accounted for. Most of them don’t require much thought, but a few will get your gray matter working. There are also one or two that don’t make much sense at all. You can skip any mini-game after a while though, so you won’t get stuck for long.

The game really doesn’t feel like it’s finished. The cursor is clunky at times. You’ll need to click on things multiple times in order to get them to work. The hint button really needed a lot of work. It will usually point you in the right direction, but will also often point you in a random direction. The inventory bar is slow to come up, the arrow you use to go back to the previous room is too close to said bar, and Sophia’s thoughts on an item don’t always come up. It’s just awkward.

Short Attention Span Summary
diehardjack1-150x150If you’re looking for a solid hidden object game, Black Viper isn’t it. It suffers from a poor translation and some poorly designed mechanics. The result is an adventure that is often confusing, frustrating, and/or even boring. This is on the lower end of the spectrum, even for a genre riddled with cheaply made titles. Play it if you must, but wait for a deep, deep discount.

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